BROKEN BEAUTIFUL HEARTS

A tense buildup with a suitably happy ending.

YA veteran Garcia (The Lovely Reckless, 2016, etc.) gets hearts racing with a well-paced novel of romance and the sweet science.

Peyton is a biracial (Cuban-American and white) high school senior in Washington, D.C., who was just offered a spot to play soccer for her top-choice university program when an injury turns all her plans on their heads. This was no accident on the pitch, though: Peyton was pushed down a flight of stairs by her abusive mixed martial arts–fighting ex, landing on her knee. In the aftermath, in which her ex denies any wrongdoing and she receives anonymous threats, Peyton escapes by moving in with a beloved uncle and his twin sons in rural Tennessee. Though her hope is to focus on school and healing, fate has other plans as another up-and-coming kickboxing and MMA fighter, Owen, becomes an inescapable presence in her life. Peyton is wary of fighters and even more dubious about her own instincts, struggling with anxiety and post-traumatic stress related to her father’s death and her own assault. Though some readers may find the frequent alpha-male posturing thrilling and romantic, it becomes tedious after the third testosterone-fueled fight takes place only halfway through the book. If the reader can stick out the brooding and violence, the conclusion is satisfying. Owen is white and there is diversity among the secondary characters.

A tense buildup with a suitably happy ending. (Sports romance. 15-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-07920-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Imprint

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2018

BINDING 13

From the Boys of Tommen series , Vol. 1

A troubling depiction of an unhealthy relationship.

A battered girl and an injured rugby star spark up an ill-advised romance at an Irish secondary school.

Beautiful, waiflike, 15-year-old Shannon has lived her entire life in Ballylaggin. Alternately bullied at school and beaten by her ne’er-do-well father, she’s hopeful for a fresh start at Tommen, a private school. Seventeen-year-old Johnny, who has a hair-trigger temper and a severe groin injury, is used to Dublin’s elite-level rugby but, since his family’s move to County Cork, is now stuck captaining Tommen’s middling team. When Johnny angrily kicks a ball and knocks Shannon unconscious (“a soft female groan came from her lips”), a tentative relationship is born. As the two grow closer, Johnny’s past and Shannon’s present become serious obstacles to their budding love, threatening Shannon’s safety. Shannon’s portrayal feels infantilized (“I looked down at the tiny little female under my arm”), while Johnny comes across as borderline obsessive (“I knew I shouldn’t be touching her, but how the hell could I not?”). Uneven pacing and choppy sentences lead to a sudden climax and an unsatisfyingly abrupt ending. Repetitive descriptions, abundant and misogynistic dialogue (Johnny, to his best friend: “who’s the bitch with a vagina now?”), and graphic violence also weigh down this lengthy tome (considerably trimmed down from its original, self-published length). The cast of lively, well-developed supporting characters, especially Johnny’s best friend and Shannon’s protective older brother, is a bright spot. Major characters read white.

A troubling depiction of an unhealthy relationship. (author’s note, pronunciations, glossary, song moments, playlists) (Romance. 16-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2023

ISBN: 9781728299945

Page Count: 626

Publisher: Bloom Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023

YOUR FAULT

From the Culpable series , Vol. 2

Plenty of heat but not enough substance to keep the fire burning.

A romantically entangled stepbrother and stepsister in Los Angeles navigate their tumultuous history and take their relationship to new levels in this translated title by an Argentinian author.

Nick and Noah are madly in love: Their mutual attraction is established as the book opens with Noah’s 18th birthday party, during which she and Nick have an explicitly described sexual encounter behind the pool house. This fiery scene sets the stage for twists and turns in the lovers’ journey, including a separation when Noah is forced to go on a monthlong mother-daughter European tour. But reminders of their pasts (chronicled in the 2023 series opener, My Fault) threaten to undermine their stability. Nick’s wealthy estranged mother makes an unfortunate appearance, while Noah is haunted by the trauma of her father’s violent death. The blend of everyday complications (jealousy, parental disapproval) with frothy visions of high-society life is at once lacking in subtlety and intimately irresistible. The series initially gained popularity on Wattpad, and the novel follows the episodic structure typical of works on that site; sensual encounters occur at reliable intervals. Still, the characters and their milieu feel formulaic, and the writing is stilted. The differences between the two—Nick is five years older and has an office job; Noah has just finished high school—makes their suffocatingly possessive relationship feel particularly squirm-worthy. Nick and Noah and their families read white.

Plenty of heat but not enough substance to keep the fire burning. (Romance. 16-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781728290768

Page Count: 450

Publisher: Bloom Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023

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